County Commission Discusses County Mayor by Mitch E. Perry

03/15/06

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson has until next Tuesday to review the wording of 2 petitions presented to his office yesterday (Tuesday)that call for County residents to vote on a County Mayor form of government.

Supporters say they have been motivated for such a measure because of what they consider the problems with the current makeup of the County Commission.

Today Hillsborough County Commissioners –for the 2nd straight time- took a considerable amount of time to discuss the measure, slightly amending a previous request to have the County Attorney research the issue to bring back before the Commissioners.

Some time was spent changing the wording of the original resolution, which would have had the County’s top official – Administrator Pat Bean – campaigning AGAINST the measure, which Commissioner Kathy Castor says would violate the County Charter (roll tape#1 o.q.�one way or another�)

Castor then came out and said she supported the concept of a County Mayor, which, judging by past remarks by other Commissioners, may make her the only one.

The motion was again discussed by Commissioner Tom Scott, who says that an information campaign is needed simply to educate the public, while insisting there is no political purpose behind it (roll tape#2 o.q.�is doing it�)

Commissioner Ken Hagen, who at the last meeting blasted the idea of a County Mayor and all the people who support it as political losers, said he wondered if simply by re-hashing similar arguments that were made 2 weeks ago, the Commission was giving more publicity to resolutions that still may not make it on this fall’s ballot (roll tape#3 o.q.�rarely the case that they agree with us�)

And Hagen – who is considered relatively soft-spoken on the board,for the 2nd straight meeting took a shot at those who support the proposal (roll tape#4 o.q.� of funding this�)

The ballot language presented to the Supervisor of Elections contains 2 petitions. One: calls for replacing the County’s Appointed Administrator with a mayor, and two: Would give the County Mayor veto power over budget and ordinance decisions passed by the County Commission, although a supermajority vote of 5 or more commissioners could override the veto. Zoning and other land use issues would be exempt from a veto.

The measures are being sponsored by the group TakingBack Hillsborough County, led by Tampa based attorney Mary Ann Stiles.

Stiles debated Commissioner Ronda Storms on the concept back in early January – a debate that Storms seemed to relish in recounting as inferior (roll tape#5 o.q.�weak�)

But though Storms again disparaged the whole idea, she apparently is fearful that it may pass if presented to the voters. That’s when she sked that County Staff research the possibility of bringing a competing measure before the voters –in September – that would require a supermajority of voters to change the County Charter – in essence, making it harder to pass a resolution for a County Mayor (roll tape#6 o.q.�require a supermajority vote�)

Storms resolution passed the chamber 5-1, with Kathy Castor dissenting and Jim Norman not present.

For more information on the measure – or -as the Commissioners say- a 1 sided view of it, you can go the web at takingbackhillsboroughcountypoliticalcommittee.org

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